Thriving: A new vision for university student success

Year: 2012

Author: Schreiner, Laurie, Hulme, Eileen, Kammer, Becky, Ladd, Kim, Rosby, Hal de la

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


A critical shift is underway in the US in the fields of higher education, psychology, social work, and organizational development, marked by a growing interest in investigating positive aspects of human functioning.  In response to stagnant graduation rates and a growing disparity between the success of students of color and Caucasian students in the US, the concept of "thriving" was developed to more holistically explore and define the experiences of successful university students.  Thriving is conceptualized as optimal functioning in three key areas that contribute to student success and persistence: academic engagement and performance, interpersonal relationships, and psychological well-being.  Thriving students are not only succeeding academically, but are engaged in the learning process, investing effort to reach important educational goals, managing their time and commitments effectively, connected in healthy ways to other people, optimistic about their future, positive about their present choices, appreciative of differences in others, and committed to enriching their community.

Over the past five years, a team of researchers have refined the Thriving Quotient with a study of almost 20,000 students at the bachelor's level in the US, Canada, and Australia. The results of this research will be presented in this session.  Pilot testing, revision, and exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses resulted in an online instrument with 25 items clustered on five factors, a model that produced an excellent fit of the data and demonstrated high reliability (a = .89; ?2 (260) = 2,781.32 (p < .001), CFI = .955, RMSEA = .042).  The construct of thriving is a higher-order construct represented in the Thriving Quotient with scales labeled (a) Engaged Learning, (b) Academic Determination, (c) Positive Perspective, (d) Diverse Citizenship, and (e) Social Connectedness.  In a structural equation model of the responses of 19,067 students from 53 public and private institutions in the US, Canada, and Australia, these aspects of thriving were found to account for an additional 11-23% of the variation in important outcomes such as university grades and intent to graduate, after controlling for institutional differences and student demographic characteristics.  The model fits equally well across national boundaries and ethnic groups, indicating its potential usefulness for international explorations of student success.